Blog Post

The Sandhill Crane Migration is On

Every March and April in central Nebraska over 500,000 sandhill cranes make their way north to their nesting grounds.

Gander Mountain


Every March and April in central Nebraska over 500,000 sandhill cranes make their way north to their nesting grounds.  They stop along the Platte River near Kearney and Gibbon Nebraska to feed in the cornfields and restock their fat and protein supply to complete the trip north.  The fields hold corn from the fall harvest and the cranes like the corn and other grains left over in the fields.  This is the largest gathering of cranes in the world and it is a spectacle to see.


The Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary owns and manages over 1,900 acres in the heart of this magnificent crane gathering area. The center offers guided field trips to view the concentrations of the birds.  They are viewed from blinds constructed along the Platte River.  People come from all over the world to view the gathering of the birds.


We have traveled across Nebraska on I-80 to visit friends and family a multitude of times and took the cranes for granted.  We never stopped to enjoy the viewing of a truly magnificent sight.  We decided to plan the trip and headed to Gibbon, Nebraska and south to the Rowe Sanctuary.  You can click on the link at the Sancuary Headquarters to get more information.  www.rowe.audubon.org In addition, if you can't make the trip or live on the other side of the world, you can still see the cranes and other creatures that inhabit the banks of the Platte River by going to the following link and view the cam the volunteers have set up.  My recommendation would be to view the cam at day's first light and in the evening.  www.rowe.audubon.org/crane-cam



Arriving shortly after a 3 hour drive from Council Bluffs, we found there was an opportunity still available to travel with a naturalist and view the cranes up close in one of the viewing blinds.  We signed up for the 6 PM viewing.  We also found out that the early viewing may be more entertaining which takes place around 6 AM.  At that time the cranes go through their various dances.  I would recommend the "Sandhill Crane Display Dictionary, what cranes say with their body language."  You can order this document by calling 1-800-434-2555.


Before the evening viewing, we drove ourselves around the various farms and roads to the south and north of the Platte.  Depending on where the birds were feeding, we had an excellent opportunity to watch the birds from a distance.  A really good set of binoculars is needed to watch the cranes and view their movements.  Crane dancing might be seen.  It will consist of wing flapping, head bowing, object tossing or one bird circling another.   This is where the Sandhill Crane Display Dictionary will come in handy.


The crane frequently gives a loud trumpeting call that  rolls from the throat.  The call can be heard from over a mile away. Mated pairs of cranes engage in "unison calling." The cranes stand close together, calling in a synchronized and complex duet. The female makes two calls for every single call of the male as indicated by our guide.  That sounds familiar doesn't it.


Vortex Viper HD Binoculars - Roof Prism


Vortex Viper HD Binoculars - Roof Prism


For a fantastic Binocular, click on the link or the pic to buy from Bass Pro.

By night fall we could no longer make out the cranes settling onto the sandbars on the river.  The group we were with quietly left so as not to disturb the birds.

If you travel I-80 at anytime in March or April across Nebraska, stopping to view the migration is well worth the time spent.


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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank.
















More Stories By Hank Huntington

Hank Huntington, Esq., is a native of southwest Iowa, healthcare professional, entrepreneur, accomplished pilot, hunting and fishing enthusiast, connoisseur, father and husband. He developed this web site for people to share their fun and excitement about the great outdoors. The best part of this hobby is, after a successful hunting or fishing trip, you are able to dine on fresh game or fish, after all, “ How do you eat a golf ball?” asks Hank. Hanks father and grandfather were both avid outdoorsmen so Hank learned his hunting and fishing skills from them and has passed the tradition down to the fourth generation. Plus the love of the outdoors, and a craving for exquisite dinning, would round out the package.

As a small boy, he fished a local oxbow lake formed by the Missouri River. The lake is primarily old river bottom mud, is not real clear, and has a lot of vegetation. The southeast corner holds a huge lily pad bed, and it was there Hank learned to drag through the water and across the tops of the pads, a Johnson Silver Minnow, with a pork rind attached. This was the place for big mouth bass, and there were lots of them, and young Hank loved to catch them.

At age of 12 Hank started going with his Dad hunting, and by age 14 he was an accomplished shooter with a 12-gauge pump. Shortly after that he was given his first shotgun a Winchester Model 12 pump; he still has it today. It looks like almost new, but the gun is never to be hunted again. Duck hunting in the late 50’s had little pressure after the first two weeks of the season, and when the north wind blew and it got really damp and cold, the big Canada Mallards came.

After graduation from high school, Hank attended Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska. There he met a fellow outdoorsman, and their friendship developed in the fields and streams of central Nebraska.

Hank had little time for hunting and fishing while attending professional school at Creighton University. After graduation he married his college sweetheart and they settled down to career, family, and as often as possible, hunting and fishing.

Hank and his family frequently flew their plane north to Canada to the legendary Canadian fly in lodges to fish for Northern and Walleye. Here he taught his son all the things his father had taught him about fishing. Most of the time the two went alone to the north woods, but when camping was not involved, his wife Pam went along. She always enjoys the fact that she has caught a bigger Northern Pike than Hank, and he has been fishing for 60 years. Today along the Missouri River valley, the deer population increased to the point that in many areas they are a nuisance. The duck, goose, and turkey has also population have also soared.

Area lakes have been well stocked. Many even have a walleye stocking program that makes outstanding fishing. Several are within easy driving distance of Hank’s lodge-like lakeside home. All packaged together is great dining. By the way, Hank harvests only what he will share at a table with family or friends.

Hank says, “Whenever I am on a lake, in the woods, or in the blind, I am always reminded of God’s great bounty and His constant presence. And whether in the great outdoors or at home with my wife, I strive to be a good steward of nature and all that God has given us.”

Good hunting! Good fishing! Good day!

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